After waiting patiently in line, Scott Puls, 52, handed a paper form and a dollar bill -- his donation -- to a volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality Kitchen. The worker put the dollar in one wicker basket and the slip in another, and two other volunteers loaded Mr. Puls up with a big paper bag overflowing with groceries and a loaf of bread.
As he walked up the steps to the parking lot, he told two volunteers that he'd be back for the potatoes and apples.
Mr. Puls is on disability and grateful for the weekly help he gets at the parish just a few blocks from his home.
"It's a lot of love, man. This is nothing but love here," he told a reporter. "I ain't rich but I have enough for each month to live on and that's all you can expect. Do you know how many people, if they didn't come here and get this food, they wouldn't have anything? I'm telling you the truth."
The Hospitality Kitchen, in the basement of the church at 6149 Hill Ave., celebrated its 30th anniversary Wednesday, serving a hot meal and giving away groceries one day a week since 1982.
Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo Catholic Diocese was there to mark the occasion, along with the parish's pastor, the Rev. Joseph Cardone; two of the kitchen's founders, 91-year-old Margaret Stacey and 89-year-old Deacon Bobb Pacholski; dozens of volunteers, and hundreds of people lined up for a hot lunch for dining in and a bag of groceries for taking home.
The meal served by the bevy of volunteers was lavish. As servers stood beneath an electronic bingo board, they gave customers an array of choices including pizza, sausage, oysters, shrimp, fried chicken, beef and gravy, noodles, broccoli soup, salad, Spanish rice, sliced strawberries, applesauce, biscuits, and rolls.
David Lang, parish manager, said donors who make the weekly giveaways possible include The Andersons, MacQueen's Orchards, Michael's Catering, The Pinnacle, Kroger, Bob Evans, Pizza Hut, Ridgewood Builders, the Savage Family, Northwest Ohio Food Bank, and Seagate Food Bank.
The oysters and shrimp were donated by The Pinnacle, said Ms. Stacey, the kitchen's chief cook who specializes in making soups. "They had too much and asked me if I wanted it. I take everything they want to give me."
Sister Felicitas Magon, 97, smiled as she served slices of anniversary cake.
"They call me Sister Cupcake," she said with a laugh. "At the nursing home, they call me Sister Happy because that's what [Felicitas] means. I was 97 on Valentine's Day. I'm mama's valentine."
A Sylvania Franciscan nun, Sister Felicitas is at the Hospitality Kitchen almost every Wednesday to help with the weekly hot meal. "Oh, I love the people! They're very nice. Lovely."
Mr. Pacholski said he was asked to start the kitchen in 1982 by the pastor at the time, the Rev. Neil Lucas, and to run it for two or three years. "Here it is 30 years later. I'm pushing 90 and I'm still going."
His wife, Virginia, helped found the kitchen and is there most Wednesdays, but had to miss the 30th anniversary after suffering bruises in a fall.
Tom Kirkhope, 74, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist and a member of Toledo's Christ the King Parish, said Mr. Pacholski recruited him as kitchen co-director. "About a year and a half ago he said, 'I'm 88 years old and I'm getting tired and I need some help. Would you help?' " Dr. Kirkhope said. "So my wife and I started to take over little by little. I'm an apprentice working my way up."
Bishop Blair greeted the volunteers and clients before lunch and gave a brief talk before the food was served. He said both givers and receivers play a role in "the exchange of gifts."
"The people who come here to be assisted in some way are also being a gift to all of us and to the church," he said. "The presence of Christ is not just one side or the other, but both sides ministering to one another and making a tremendous gift."
Father Cardone linked the Hospitality Kitchen to the Mass that takes place in the sanctuary above. "This is a very important extension of what we do upstairs," he said. "What we do upstairs when we gather on Sunday for the Eucharist has everything to do with what we do down here."
Mr. Pacholski said the kitchen served a record 1,013 people on a single Wednesday in 1983, and on most weeks serves more than 500 people, counting hot lunches and groceries. In 30 years, he said the kitchen has fed a total of 750,000 people.
The Hospitality Kitchen "gives me a purpose in life," he said, adding that he volunteers at Our Lady of Lourdes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and goes to the food banks on Friday. "I'm almost 90. When you get up in the morning, you know you've got something to do."
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.